In preparation for the Clean Air Zone starting next month, we have been speaking to local businesses already doing their bit to make the air cleaner in Bristol. This week, we speak to Sam Blakeney, Managing Director at Nippychecks, a mobile plumbing and heating service based in the city.
We asked him about his new eco-friendly venture and how he is preparing his business for the start of the Clean Air Zone.
How did Nippychecks start?
I started working at a heating company in Bristol which helped me build experience and knowledge of both the city and the industry. I went on to set up West Country Plumbing and Heating nine years ago which covers Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Bath, Cheltenham and everywhere in between.
Using this experience, I decided to set up a new, pioneering eco-friendly business in June this year and Nippychecks was born. Our engineers ride between jobs on electric cargo bikes and it’s great! To give you more of an idea, I’ve travelled from Easton to Westbury-on-Trym in 20 minutes, using a mixture of roads, cycle paths and bus lanes.
How did you know Nippychecks would work?
We trialed the idea four years ago – I pitched myself on an electric mountain bike against two of our vans, around a route including six Bristol properties. Carrying tools in a pannier bag, the bike was brilliant – on short routes I arrived first, easily. Even on longer routes with fast stretches of road I was only about 10 minutes behind. I found it enjoyable, healthy and a great way to get around the city.
With the capabilities of cycling confirmed, I considered two other major issues, the weather and the occasional need for a ladder. Modern telescopic ladders can be strapped to the side of your bike. I did the same in Asia with my surfboard. But I couldn’t change the weather. Even with the best outer clothing it was still going to be miserable in heavy rain. I parked the idea, until I saw a cargo bike complete with a roof and storage compartment. I’d trialled one within a month and knew this was the answer.
Why is it important for you to be more sustainable and help clean Bristol’s air?
It’s been frustrating operating as a heating engineer in and around Bristol for the last 16 years. Even before the rise in fuel prices, there was lots of traffic, general business costs and even parking to consider, sometimes a long way away from a job. These are things we couldn’t avoid and resulted in us having to pass costs on.
But now we have a solution which helps the environment and air quality plus makes boiler services and maintenance cheaper for homeowners and businesses. It’s a fact that we all need to do more to look after our planet and people’s health.
How does Nippychecks work for Bristol?
We work for Bristol in a number of ways. Firstly, we are taking diesel and petrol vehicles off the road helping to ease congestion and reduce emissions which is so important for cleaner air. We all need to find ways to help, and this includes avoiding van and car use where we can. Secondly, our operating costs have been reduced. Thirdly, we are creating jobs for young heating engineers who don’t have a driving licence. Lastly, it’s a way for homeowners, landlords and letting agents to boost their eco credentials by using a more sustainable choice for their homes. And it makes us smile. We can ride these bikes effortlessly around the city, carrying out jobs while watching people point us out as we nip up Park Street.
How are you preparing for the Clean Air Zone?
The Clean Air Zone is starting in November and our e-cargo bikes mean we are ready for it. We’ve also become involved in the West of England’s new Sustainable Impact Champions initiative, helping drive change across the city region to reduce companies’ carbon footprint.
I’d urge all companies operating in the city centre to look into the mechanics of how they operate, identify places where electric vehicles can be used and adopt them as early as possible.
We are fully behind the Clean Air Zone and the difference it sets out to make to the quality of our air.